Israel’s Ben-Gvir wants to execute Palestinians to free prison space

Israel’s Ben-Gvir wants to execute Palestinians to free prison space
Israel’s far-right national security minister suggested the death penalty as a solution for prisons overcrowded with Palestinian captives.
3 min read
18 April, 2024
Israel’s Ben-Gvir suggests death penalty for Palestinians to ease prison overcrowding [Getty]

Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, suggested execution as a solution to overcrowding in Israeli jails brimming with Palestinian prisoners - many of whom are under administrative detention without charge or trial. 

"The death penalty for terrorists is the right solution to the incarceration problem, until then - glad that the government approved the proposal I brought forward," he said, in reference to approved plans to build 936 additional prison cells to take in more Palestinians.

The comments came just a day after Palestinians marked Palestinian Prisoners' Day during which Gaza's media office announced that over 5,000 Palestinians had been arrested by Israeli forces since the start of the war on the besieged enclave on 7 October.

Israel's defence ministry and a number of other ministries are funding the building of additional prisons, costing around 450 million Shekels ($119mn).

Israel’s Public Defender’s Office said that some of the country's prisons had been placed under a state of emergency due to severe overcrowding.

The report said that thousands of prisoners sleep on mattresses on the floor and that many of the facilities had poor sanitary conditions, pest issues, inadequate ventilation as well as no equipment.

The Public Defender’s Office also found that half of those incarcerated in Israel were held under harsh conditions that do not even meet the High Court’s first step of living space, which outlines that they were to be held in an area of no less than three square metres.

Torture and ill-treatment 

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) published a report this week stating it had documented the release of 1,506 Palestinian detainees via the Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing on 4 April, many of whom had suffered torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence at the hands of Israeli forces.

UNRWA said that the released detainees had described being transported in trucks to "military barracks" in southern Israel and were completely cut off from the outside world for several weeks. Most of them were then transferred to various prisons in Israel.

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The UNRWA report also said that detainees were beaten while lying on top of thin mattresses placed on rubble and were denied food, water, or toilet access, with their hands and feet bound by plastic ties.

Some were forced to sit on their knees for 12-16 hours a day with their hands tied.

Dogs were also used to attack the detainees, with some of those released, including children, having dog bite wounds on their bodies.

Israel has long campaigned against UNRWA, intensifying this effort since the start of its indiscriminate war on Gaza, which has killed at least 33,899 people. The UN agency has suffered from underfunding for years, and Israel has refused to cooperate with it during the Gaza war.

On Wednesday, Palestinian rights group Addameer reported that Israeli crimes against Palestinian prisoners have intensified since 7 October.

They noted that over 8,000 male and female detainees have been arrested since then, with 80 percent of them held under arbitrary administrative detention without charge or trial.